Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

Types of Commercial Driver's Licenses

Until 1986, many states allowed anyone with a valid driver’s license to drive a commercial vehicle. This state of affairs led to situations where improperly trained drivers were taking 18-wheelers cross-country. Unsurprisingly, the resulting truck accidents were frequently catastrophic. In 1986, Congress passed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which requires drivers of commercial vehicles to carry a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

When Do You Need a Commercial Driver’s License?

You need a commercial driver’s license to drive an 18-wheeler, a dump truck, a passenger bus, a school bus, or a similar commercial vehicle. 

You also need a CDL to drive any vehicle that:

  • Weighs over 26,000 pounds;
  • Is designed to carry hazardous materials such as gasoline; or
  • Can carry at least 16 passengers.

This is not an exhaustive list of the vehicles you need a CDL to drive. Pennsylvania carves out exceptions for certain farm equipment, construction equipment, and motor homes. 

How to Qualify for a CDL

The following are the general requirements for obtaining a commercial driver’s license:

Get a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)

You must obtain a commercial learner’s permit before you can train for a CDL. 

You need:

  • A valid automobile driver’s license 
  • Proof of Pennsylvania residence 
  • Proof that you are at least 18 (you need to be 21 to drive out of state)
  • A Commercial Learner’s Permit Application (DL-31CD
  • A Self-Certification Form (DL-11CD)
  • A Medical Examiner’s Certificate (unless an exception applies)

You must also pass written knowledge tests and pay a fee.

Pass the Skills Tests 

To obtain a commercial driver’s license in Pennsylvania, you need to take a class. Which class you take varies depending on which class of CDL you are seeking. 

You must then pass a series of skills tests, which are road tests. How many and which skills tests you need to pass depends on which class of license you are seeking and any special skills you may need for your job.

Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

The following is a list of types of CDLs you can seek. You may need special endorsements, beyond ordinary CDL requirements, to perform certain functions, such as hauling certain types of hazardous materials. 

Class A Licenses

The tractor can weigh more than 26,000 pounds, and the trailer can weigh more than 10,000 pounds. You may drive 18-wheeler trucks, truck and trailer combinations, flatbeds, tankers, and livestock carriers. You can also drive most Class B and Class C vehicles if you have the proper endorsements. Class A licenses are the least restrictive of all types of licenses.

Class B Licenses

The tractor can weigh over 26,000 pounds, while the trailer must not weigh over 10,000 pounds.

You may drive city buses, tourist buses, school buses, segmented buses, delivery trucks, furniture trucks, straight trucks, box trucks, and dump trucks with small trailers. You can also drive certain Class C vehicles if you have the proper endorsements.

Class C Licenses

You may drive hazmat vehicles, double and triple trailers, tankers, and buses if you have proper endorsements. The tractor cannot weigh more than 26,000 pounds, and the trailer cannot weigh over 10,000 pounds. Class C licenses are the most restrictive licenses. 

Commercial Driver’s License Revocation

You can lose any of the foregoing CDL types a lot more easily than you can lose a typical license. 

The following offenses could lead to a CDL license revocation: 

  • “Serious” traffic offenses such as driving without your CDL in your possession, driving at least 15 mph over the speed limit, and certain other offenses
  • “Major” traffic offenses such as DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a revoked CDL, and other serious offenses
  • Accidents caused by negligence or other culpable conduct
  • Railroad crossing violations
  • Human trafficking
  • Drug trafficking  

For safety reasons, certain traffic infractions apply only to large vehicles. That means that trucks are not allowed to do certain things that automobiles can do.

Except for DUI and certain other serious violations, infractions that occur while you are driving your personal vehicle will not affect your CDL driving privileges. Minor violations while driving commercially will not typically result in CDL license revocation.

Contact a Philadelphia Truck Accident Lawyer If a Commercial Truck Driver Caused a Collision

If you have suffered an injury in an accident caused by someone driving with a CDL, a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer can help you win fair compensation. Commercial trucking, in particular, is a highly regulated industry, and proving that the driver violated a trucking or CDL regulation will help you win a personal injury claim. 

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call Zavodnick & Lasky Personal Injury Lawyers at (215) 875-7030 or contact us online.
You can also visit our law firm at 123 S Broad St #1220, Philadelphia, PA 19109.